Anyone who’s ever been to an airport knows that food and beverage (F&B) at airports tend to cost more than they do “on the outside.” That’s why it’s ranked as one of the 4 things you should never buy at airports (here are the other 3).
Sometimes though, you just can’t help it. Maybe you didn’t have time to cook or pick something up before you got to the airport. Maybe the airport is the only place in your town where you can get Famous Famiglia pizza. Maybe your flight has been delayed or canceled and you’re stuck at the airport for hours, so hell, you may as well eat.
I suspect that part of the reason places at airports charge so much for F&B is simply “because they can.” After all, you’re a captive audience, so why not charge you $3.99 for bottled water or $3.49 for a Kind bar? It’s the same concept as prices at a sports arena or a concert venue. However, I also realize there must be all kinds of inner workings of being an airport vendor that most of us don’t know about. So a small increase in prices at an airport would be understandable.
As it turns out, many airport authorities impose regulations on how much airport F&B vendors can charge – something to the tune of a cap that’s no more than 10-15% more than the going “street price.” But even that tends to be vague, and if airport authorities aren’t paying attention, the vendors will charge whatever they want.
So take all of that into consideration and, as it turns out, some F&B vendors at New York City area’s John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty International Airports were charging some outrageous prices.
Enter Cooper Lund’s experience.
Lund is just an ordinary guy from Brooklyn. He was at LaGuardia last summer, on his way to visit family in Minnesota. He took a picture of the ridiculous beer prices at one of the airport restaurants and posted it on social media. He called it a “throwaway tweet.”
lol at all of this, including the additional 10% “COVID Recovery Fee” that doesn’t go to workers pic.twitter.com/Bq9rHJqek7
— Cooper Lund (@cooperlund) July 7, 2021
Local indy nonprofit, nonpartisan digital news platform The City followed up on other prices seen at the 3 airports and they’re just despicable. The same $3.89 bottle of soda at Hudson News could be found for $1.75 at a local deli. A half-ounce tin of Pringles chips that costs $5.99 inside the airport could easily be found for $2.50 outside it.
Back to Cooper Lund…
His tweet was picked up on social media, and eventually got the attention of the Port Authority of NY and NJ (PANYNJ), which is the bi-state agency that controls EWR, JFK, and LGA. They, in turn, got their independent Office of Inspector General (OIG) to run an audit of OTG Management, the company that operates several F&B locations at all 3 airports. Here’s what the PANYNJ said OIG discovered:
“In reviewing the records and assessing all charges associated with the vendor, the OIG determined that certain beer prices included an erroneously added surcharge on top of an inflated base price. Based on a detailed review of the concessionaire’s records, the OIG determined that a total of 25 customers were charged the totally indefensible amounts of $23 or $27 (depending on size) for a beer. The OIG further confirmed that, as a corrective action, the concessionaire had contacted all 25 customers and refunded the entire check of their order.”
Um yeah. Just a “whoops,” I’m sure. BTW, according to The City, one of OTG’s senior executives is Larry Schwartz, a longtime lieutenant to former Governor Andrew Cuomo. Hmmmm….
Anyway, the PANYNJ continued:
“In assessing a range of other products and concessionaires, the OIG further determined certain aspects of the previous iteration of the street pricing policy were too vague and lacked adequate specificity to enable concessionaries to know with precision what they were expected to do to comply with the policy.”
With that, the PANYNJ revised its 35-page “Concessionaire Street Pricing Standards and Procedures Manual” (you can read the PDF here). It clearly states that the pricing of goods sold by Airport Concessionaires can only be sold at maximum prices equal to prices charged locally, off-Airport, plus 10%.
The funny thing is that the “Off-Airport +10%” pricing had actually gone into effect in the summer of 2020. But without follow up….? So now there WILL be follow up on a quarterly basis. And, hopefully, prices for F&B and everything else at the 3 NY area airports will be substantially lower.
We won’t be flying up to that neck of the woods until September at the earliest. Please let me know if you notice a difference in prices at any of them? Thanks!
Feature Photo: LaGuardia-Airport.com
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary